AUGUSTA, Ga. Golf has been known to open gaping wounds in even its best practitioners, gashes no amount of sutures can close.
Adam Scott bears the scars, long and jagged. Last summer, he led the British Open by four shots with four holes to play and closed with four consecutive bogeys. He lost by one.
What, though, of the pain of an entire nation? There isn't an Australian who approaches the lead at the Masters who isn't asked about the heroes who came here, and failed, occasionally in excruciating fashion. Paging Greg Norman.
All of those emotions and characters entered the whirlpool that became the final hour of the final day of the 77th Masters. Scott's failures, Australia's failures, Norman's shadow they all stood over a putt on the 10th green, unforgettable drama in the immediate past, an untold future for the man holding that ridiculous broomstick of a putter.
"I wasn't comfortable looking down there," Scott said.
Get comfortable now. When Scott's 12-foot putt settled squarely into the bottom of the cup, all the indignities of the past personal and patriotic melted away. He thrust both hands to the sky, bent his back for emphasis and screamed through the raindrops. With that putt to beat Angel Cabrera in one of the best playoffs ever at Augusta National Golf Club, Scott won the first major of his career and the first Masters for Australia two accomplishments that had long been expected but never realized.
"I'm a proud Australian," Scott said, "and I hope this sits really well back at home."
There's no question of that. Norman, of course, was a hero to Australians of Scott's generation, the reason so many took up the sport. But for all his talent and flair, Norman is defined by his tragedies here. In 1986, he bogeyed the 72nd hole and lost by a shot to Jack Nicklaus. The following year, Norman was left at the side of the 11th green as Larry Mize chipped in for a birdie, improbably ending their playoff. And in 1996, the worst: a six-shot lead on Sunday morning that somehow turned into a five-shot loss to Nick Faldo by Sunday night.
"He inspired a nation of golfers, anyone near to my age, older and younger," Scott said. "He was the best player in the world. He was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model."
It took time to whittle the field to the two characters who sorted it out, and so many players closed their trunks and drove away from Augusta National, no doubt replaying crucial moments in their minds.
Brandt Snedeker was on the cusp of salvaging a gutsy par at the 10th, one that would have pulled him within a shot of the lead, and he missed a two-foot downhill putt. He three-putted 11 and never recovered en route to a 75 and a tie for sixth.
Tiger Woods, he of the two-stroke penalty and nagging controversy from Friday's second round, didn't have such a punch-in-the-gut moment but instead died slowly. He fell out of contention with two bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the front side and couldn't claw back to apply pressure on the back. He finished four back, tied for fourth.
"We could do that 'What if?' in every tournament we lose," Woods said. " That's just part of the process, and I'll go back to it."
Their pain seemed minimal to what Jason Day must have felt, because at 6 p.m., it was Day who stood on the 16th tee holding a two-shot lead in the final round of the Masters, the Australian most likely to break through. Day birdied 13, 14 and 15, and the par-3 16th should have served as an opportunity, not an omen.
But Day's tee shot at 16 carried over the green. On Saturday, Day held the lead headed to the final two holes and bogeyed both. On Sunday, he bogeyed 16 and 17, and at a more critical moment, his lead evaporated.
"Obviously," he said, "I think pressure got to me a little bit."